Second Life and the Mac WebKit Problem

Me... a Protester?

Me… a Protester?

 My readers will know Mac users have a problem. There is no near term solution to the problem for several reasons. Even more confusing is there are multiple problems. And today a group approached me hoping to put together a movement to show Linden Lab the extent of the problem and the interest in getting it fixed.

So, I’m scratching my head wondering if the Lab is in a position to fix the problem… and which problem are we talking about? Since I’m not a Mac user, I’m probably not the best one to write this, but no one else seems to be covering it.

I’ve touched on Mac issues in the past; Second Life News 2013-11, Firestorm Viewer News 2014-7, Viewer Release Pipeline Update, and others. The SL Viewer and Third Party Viewers are moving to support Apple’s Cocoa frame work or may be I should say did so move in 2013. But, that has left Apple users on older operating systems behind. SL apparently has problems running in the older Apple OS’s. This has resulted in Apple users staying with older viewer versions.

As we near another release of the Firestorm Viewer those issues are coming to a crisis point for some users. The recent blocking of Firestorm 4.4.0 is bringing home the point of the team only allowing 3 versions to run on the SL grid and blocking older versions. People are getting the idea the team is actually blocking older viewers. 

The next most likely version to bump from 3rd to 4th position and be blocked is 4.4.2, which is the last pre-Cocoa viewer in the Firestorm line (this isn’t perfectly accurate, but its close enough). A significant group of Mac users will have a problem if 4.4.2 is actually blocked. Today (4/12 @ 4PM) Jessica is hosting a Q&A and making some announcements. We may learn more about that issue at the Q&A. I have other place to be in RL, so I’ll have to wait for the video to come out.

All this leads to angst and the good tradition of having a protest in SL.

But, is this a problem the Lab can fix?

Well, after a few hours of research, I find that a hard question to definitively answer.

The FS Team has a JIRA issue: FIRE-11057 –  [BUG-3694] [MAINT-3058] [FLASH 11.8] [MAC] black or blank video screen, but sound is ok – media streaming with Adobe FlashPlayer version 11.8.800.94 & higher, Mac OS X 10.6 -> 10.9, outdated Webkit legacy code needs to be updated by Lindenlab. This item includes some work-around methods for those with the problem. The BUG and MAINT references are to SL JIRA items.

WebKit is a problem, most impacting Mac users. But, it is a growing, with age, problem that will affect Windows users too. I wrote about it in January this year. See: Second Life and WebKit. There I point to BUG-4763, FIRE-12642, and FIRE-11057 mentioned above.

The Lindens have started looking at the problem. Monty Linden came across it as he cleaned up the SL libraries used to build the SL Viewer. I wrote at the time that he was feeling overwhelmed on the WebKit issue. Since then he has continued work as time permitted.

Monty Linden is and has been working on the WebKit library update. He has moved the Lab’s use of it ahead. But, we are not likely to see that work in an SL Viewer until he gets a more current upgrade in place. The FS work may speed up his work.

I think this is a case of jumping from say v1 to v5 creating so many problems one has to step from v1 to v2 and fix those issues, then v2 to v3 and fix those and so on.

The FS Team is updating their WebKit library and getting updated to WebKit 5.2.1. They see it fixing MOAP and are hoping it fixes the broken Flash player on the Mac’s. Whirly says it has stopped the YouTube warnings. So, this is a significant step.

FS is only a couple of days into the work, from what Jessica said on Friday. Nicky is apparently trying to get the upgrade in place for the next FS release (expected toward the end of this month. FS sees an important need to get the Mac fixes done because of the coming block of FS 4.4.2, which Mac users depend on. They want to give their Mac users a path to a usable new version of FS.

For the Lab the WebKit is sort of an off-plan project Monty is working on. WebKit problems apparently mess up on-plan items, so Monty is trying to get it fixed. But, this diverts him in some ways from the main project: HTTP.

The QTWebKit is no longer being maintained by Apple. This means WebKit based browsers will have a problem with QT content. If I have it right that makes a problem for Mac users, pushing them to Flash. So, if something is presented in QT, it is a problem. But, I’m fuzzy in this area.

The Lab has yet to decide what to do for Mac about QT, and WebKit. Even with WebKit fully upgraded the QT part of it is a problem. The Lab may develop QT for WebKit or change to CEF (Chromium Embedded Framework). I take it that decision is in process within the Lab. So, we may be weeks from a decision being made. But, it seems the hope is the Lab will move to CEF. Everyone seems to be abandon inf QT as the web moves toward HTML5 graphics and CEF.

There are Cocoa bugs being worked on by the Lab and Third Party Devs. It isn’t like Mac has been abandoned. There are a couple of Cocoa fixes in the current RC Maintenance release. The other bugs are on the Linden list of things to do and near the top. But, the Lab is resource limited so while they are on the list not all of them are getting attention. The Alt-Camera control is apparently a particularly annoying one they have yet to start on. But, Mac users are going to have to live with it for a time.

A group has formed named: Pro Webkit Update Group. (Open enrollment) The purpose is stated as:

We are a growing group of SL-mac users that look forward to a fix of the outdated webkit legacy code, that prevents media playback inworld. Please join, group together and lets show Lindenlab: We are not just a few!

We organize short & spontaneous flashmob meetings to show our protest inworld at selected places with media screens. PC users are welcome too.

Check the Second Life bugbase for technical info here:

They have some idea the Lab has no idea how many Mac users are having this problem. So, they want to show the Lab. The Lab’s stats system can give the Lab the exact number of Mac users on a specific OS version. So, they know.

These protests are unlikely to move the Lab as they are providing no new information. Filing JIRA’s or clicking WATCH in the existing JIRA’s may raise the priority at the Lab. But, even that won’t provide the Lab new information. So, I doubt it will change anything. This isn’t an awareness-of-problem issue that is delaying the fixes. It is a resource limitation and a matter of things having changed, like Apple dropping support.

Still, you may want to join the group to keep on the news from a group more involved than I am. And… it may help.

14 thoughts on “Second Life and the Mac WebKit Problem

  1. The QTWebKit is no longer being maintained by Apple.
    I think it is Quicktime (QT) that apple is no longer supporting.

  2. I seem to recall Jessica saying that 4.4.2 would not be blocked until the new version worked for mac users.

    I am on mavericks and have to use 4.4.2 — so I am updated on my end — the viewer is behind.

    Ebbe shined on Apple issues in his talk at VWBPE — said he knew nothing and it must be a bug. I think the honeymoon is over for him — he needs to own the issues — know and solve them.

  3. Insofar as Firestorm blocking is concerned, Jessica has previously stated 4.4.2 will not be blocked until more Mac issues are resolved. Here’s what she said about the Mac issues and blocking at the March 15th, 2014 Firestorm meeting / Q&A:

    I did state during the [TPV Developer] meeting with Oz that we’re not going to block 4.4.2 until these major Cocoa issues are addressed. The unfortunate thing about that is doesn’t really solve much for you Mac folks, because you’re still not going to see Fitted Mesh, which I think will become popular over time, you’re not going to see Materials and whatever else is in the pipeline in the future. It’s not going to be an ideal thing, but I can tell you we’re not going to block 4.4.2 until the major issues with Mac are dealt with.

    • It seems Jessica is doing what can be done to keep FS limited to 3 active versions. It looks like she will try to get the next FS release working for Mac users and once the team is sure it is working then block the 4th active version 4.4.2. If the next release goes poorly for Mac users… 4.4.2 may be around for awhile.

      The team is VERY good about trying to take care of their users. They also try to stick to their stated policies. I expect they will bend the 3-version rule only for a time.

    • She doesn’t have a choice if 4.4.2 falls below third place in the number of Firestorm versions out there. That is mandated by Linden Labs. And if Firestorm intends to withhold releases to everyone because of an issue that only affects some Mac users, that’s not an appropriate solution either.

      • Jessica has a choice. You and Tonya have taken opposite positions and both of you seem to have ignored the other nuances of the situation.

  4. Hi Nalates,

    One of the recent comments to the FIRE-11057 bug report sums this up nicely:

    \Whirly, could you please add this issue to the metalist of Cocoa related issues that exist for both the LL viewer and FS? I noticed at the most recent third party viewer dev meeting that there was talk about continually bringing attention of these to LL to continue the pressure to fix the great number of Mac issues. This problem was not created by the Cocoa merge itself but is caused by the viewer using old legacy pre-Cocoa code and actually needs to be updated to Cocoa code to function properly again. So in that way it is very related to Cocoa. This is also a problem that LL has neglected fixing for almost 9 months now and is infuriating. They need to be constantly reminded of this one too. On a side note, since Flash is up to version 12 now, maybe it might be important to update that information as well. We sure wouldn’t want any Lindens getting the wrong idea thinking that its only for an old version of Flash, the 11.8 that are having the problem and continuing to neglect it.\

    Adobe fixed the problem, now Firestorm is fixing the problem… Why can’t the Lab fix the problem? In the metaverse, we must be multilingual. I’ve supported Mac, Windows, and LInux users for decades now. This isn’t brain surgery, this is simply updating obsolete code. Maybe the lab should hire someone who can program in Cocoa?

    I am glad this issue was raised to Ebbe himself. He may need a more diversified group to handle the many issues unique to non-Windows users.

      • Oh okay. I only responded the way I did because you mentioned this twice: “But, is this a problem the Lab can fix?” and then mentioned that Monty is overwhelmed. I would imagine he is if he is the only one working on this. I think this case screams the need to hire Cocoa programmers who can rapidly respond to the constant state of change with Apple products.

        You also mentioned that Apple users are staying with older versions of the viewer because they are more compatible with the older operating systems. Actually, the culture of Mac users is to adopt the latest operating system simply because we are forced to. Apple doesn’t pander to their older OSes – they seem to intentionally make it impossible to use them. So Mac users will most likely have one of the latest OSes and have the latest viewer as well.

        • Well… the update culture for Mac does not seem to be much different than that of Windows users, at least according to the stats I see.

          Hiring programmers is something management makes a decision on based on customer distribution. As it is now Mac users are a small percent of the SL user base. It follows that the company would expend a small percent of their budget and time on Mac users. That is just people being practical.

          As to Monty being over whelmed, over whelmed is my word. But, the scope of the change required is more than he he expected. From Fridays TPV meting we learned he has been tackling it.

          To assume he is the only one working on it and has no help may be true. But, it is also one assumption too far.

      • The real questions is, with the money they bring in on a monthly basis from SL, WHY are they resource limited?

  5. I just found out about Singularity, and installed that on my new Macbook Pro instead of the old Firestorm viewers I had been using. Based on my first 1/2 hour of use, it appears to have solved my problem because prior to that, I just hated my SL experience. It’s sad, I’ve been a long time SL resident, and had literally given up on going in world because music was one of my main reasons for being there. I couldn’t even go to shows anymore because of my viewer freezing every couple of seconds, and if it was a really packed show, forget it, I couldn’t do anything when I got to the show but freeze.

    So far, from the limited use i’ve seen, I don’t have any of the issues I had with Firestorm, went to a few shows, went to a few new places, everything loaded fine, and I didn’t have any of the \freezing issues\ that I was experiencing. Longerterm use may prove otherwise, but I found this blog as I was searching for more Singularity Mac reviews, and realized it may be more of an SL issue and Mac users than a view mac user issue. We will see!

  6. Pingback: Second Life’s Not So New News | Nalates' Things & StuffNalates' Things & Stuff

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